JIS News

A tree-planting project, aimed at improving soil conservation, rehabilitating and managing watershed communities, in Yallahs, St. Thomas, was officially launched yesterday (April 26), in that community.
President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, launched the project at the quarterly meeting of the Yallahs Development Area Committee (YDAC), which was attended by community leaders and residents from 20 communities, as well as representatives from government and non-governmental organisations.
The project, expected to cost some $5.6 million, will be funded by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) and implemented by the Social Development Commission (SDC) and the YDAC.
Giving an overview of the project, Chairman of the YDAC, Howard Shepherd, said the project would be carried out in eight phases, to include a two-year pilot project to be implemented in the north east section of the Yallahs watershed area, beginning at a point called Pretty Turning Curve, and ending at Big Gully Bridge.
Communities involved include Windsor Forest, Content, Bethel, Richmond Vale, and sections of Mango Row. Approximately 50 farmers in these communities who have available land will be asked to participate and plant trees on some 100 acres of land.
Mr. Shepherd noted that trees such as the otaheite apple, rose apple, pimento, ackee, naseberry, cedar and mahogany would be planted to protect the banks of the river and create barriers to prevent soil erosion.
Other components of the project, he said, included river training and a public education programme to sensitise farmers and residents about the need to protect the environment. “We will be training farmers how to plant trees, how to maintain the land and how to protect these trees,” he added.
Mr. Shepherd said that at the “matured stage”, the project would see the setting up of agro-processing facilities to utilize the fruits for the production of juices, dried and canned fruits.
He pointed out that a feasibility study had been carried out and a projection report done on the project by the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC). He noted that persons managing the project would be trained in capacity building and project management.
In his address, Senator Grant called for the implementation of “greater regulations” to deal with the problem of deforestation and to ensure that trees were protected.
“I strongly advocate that we should look into the question of a licensing system, whereby people are given licences before they are able to cut trees for commercial purposes,” he emphasized.
Senator Grant said trucks were often seen with lumber along the highway and if they are stopped, the operators “could not give you a legitimate account as to where the lumber came from”.
He encouraged members of the YDAC to establish a nursery, certified by the Forestry Department, to grow seedlings for distribution to farmers in the project areas.